EU Moves to Limit Threat of New Internal Travel Disruptions

European Union regulators are proposing measures to limit internal travel disruptions resulting from coronavirus-induced border closures in the region.

In a sign of concern that a resurgence of the pandemic could trigger renewed barriers to cross-border movement within the 27-nation bloc, the European Commission proposed ways for EU governments to cooperate more closely over travel restrictions.

“Our right to move freely in the EU has been heavily impacted by the pandemic,” EU Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders said on Friday in Brussels. “For the many citizens who rely on frictionless travel every day, the cacophony of national rules in the EU is overwhelming. We want to simplify things.”

The pandemic has forced EU regulators into a political balancing act between respecting member countries’ responsibility for health policy and protecting the bloc’s principle of free movement of people. The initiative on Friday by the commission, the EU’s executive arm, needs the approval of member-country governments. It would amount to a non-binding recommendation covering their actions in the field of health and travel.

Specifically, the commission recommended:

  • common criteria and thresholds for member countries when deciding whether to impose travel restrictions
  • a map of common criteria using an agreed color code
  • a joint framework for measures applied to travelers from high-risk areas
  • “clear and timely” information to the public about any restrictions

The commission proposed that each EU government weighing restrictions take into account the total number of newly notified Covid-19 cases per 100,000 people in a given area over a 14-day period; the percentage of positive results from all Covid-19 tests carried out in a given area during a seven-day period; and the number of tests carried out per 100,000 people in a given area during a seven-day period.

On the color code, the commission recommended four categories: green, orange, red and gray.

The commission said that people traveling from an area classified as “red” or “grey” either undergo 14
days of quarantine or take a Covid-19 test after arrival, with testing being the preferred option.

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